Christmas cactus are extremely popular houseplants all across the US as they are easy-care succulents that can thrive in any normal American home. But what if you want to grow christmas cactus in the yard or bring your christmas cactus outside … is it possible?
In this article I show you where it is possible to grow christmas cactus directly in yard soil or in pots outdoors and when you can bring an indoor christmas cactus outside and when you cannot.
Table of Contents
- Growing & caring for christmas cactus outside
- Growing christmas cactus yard plants
- Potted christmas cactus garden plants
- Taking christmas cactus houseplants outside – when you can & when you can’t
- Where christmas cactus grow best when outside
Growing & caring for christmas cactus outside
Christmas cactus, botanical name Schlumbergera bridgessii, is a tropical succulent that grows naturally in the warm coastal areas of south-eastern Brazil. It is a member of the broader succulent family Schlumbergera and requires similar care to plants of that family (see our christmas cactus care guide).
There are other species of the succulent family Schlumbergera that are often mistaken for christmas cactus due to the similarities in look and their similar care requirements, these include the holiday cactus, thanksgiving cactus, crab cactus and the easter cactus.
Obviously being native to tropical areas of Brazil the christmas cactus, and other holiday cacti, is not be suitable for growing outside in all areas of the US. So let’s look now at where you can grow christmas cactus outside and where you cannot.
Although christmas cactus is grown in the US mostly as a houseplant this does nots mean you cannot grow it outdoors provided certain conditions are met. But not everyone location in the US meets these conditions.
So, should christmas cactus be inside or outside?
In most parts of the US christmas cactus should be grown inside as a houseplant. However, in most US locations it can be taken outside in the warm summer months. Only people living in USDA climate zones 9 – 11 can keep christmas cactus outside all year round.
For christmas cactus that grown as yard plants you should be aware that there are different rules used for christmas cactus plants that are grown in pots outside and those that are grown directly in the ground.
I will cover these differences as we progress through the information in this article. Though, obviously potted plants are easier to move indoors when the temperature drops and rainfall increases making a potted plant the preference in most US locations.
So, it is essential you know before you permanently plant a christmas cactus in the ground whether or not your area is suitable for growing christmas cactus as a ground-based yard plant.
Growing christmas cactus yard plants
Before I cover the subject of using potted christmas cactus outdoors I will briefly cover the subject of cultivating christmas cactus directly in the garden.
Let’s start by looking at whether christmas cactus is a suitable succulent for planting in the ground.
When it is possible to plant christmas cactus directly in the ground
Christmas cactus is almost always seen in the USA growing in pots but can you plant it in the ground and grow it as a yard plant?
Christmas cactus can be planted in the ground and kept there all year round in USDA hardiness zones 9 – 11. In climate zone 8 it is possible to grow christmas cactus in the ground during the warmer months but the plant must be uprooted, then potted and moved indoors in winter to protect it from frost.
All other zones are unsuitable for planting christmas cactus outdoors in the ground.
Although christmas cactus naturally grows in shaded areas of trees (it will actually grow on the tree itself) and in rocky formations in its natural habitat, it will grow perfectly fine in garden soil as long as you live in the correct climate zone. Hardiness zones 9 – 11 are the only ones that are suitable for year-round yard growing of this cactus.
How to grow christmas cactus outside as a yard plant
Below are points to observe when growing christmas cactus outside:
- Grow directly in garden soil only in hardiness zones 9 through 11.
- Plant the cactus in a shaded area that gets about 8 hours of good indirect light.
- Water the christmas cactus only when the soil becomes dry.
- Fertilize the cactus once during growing season with a succulent feed.
Christmas cactus are easy-care plants, even when they are planted in garden soil. But they will only grow successfully if you live in the warmer parts of the US. These cacti are not cold-hardy and frost will kill them.
Christmas cactus grown outdoors in zones 9 – 11 usually produce very nice blooms.
If you live in zone 8 you can cultivate christmas cactus as a yard plant as long as you uproot it, pot it and bring it indoors in the colder months of winter. Alternatively, you can initiate some winter precautions designed to protect the cactus during the colder season and leave it in the ground though I suggest you simply pot it and bring it indoors.
Potted christmas cactus garden plants
Cultivating christmas cactus in pots outdoors is much easier than dealing with garden plants simply because the plant stays mobile.
Just as you can grow christmas cactus in the ground in hardiness zones 8 – 11 you can just as easily grow them in pots in these zones. This is my preferred method as you have much more control over the environment around the plant allowing you the ability to move it to a more desirable location, for example if you need to protect it against direct sunlight.
How to grow potted christmas cactus plants outside
The same rules that apply to a ground planted christmas cactus apply to a potted christmas cactus that is grown outside.
Below are points to observe when growing potted christmas cactus outside:
- You can keep a potted christmas cactus outside year-round only in hardiness zones 9 through 11.
- Yard soil from zones 9 – 11 should be fine to use in the pot or you can use succulent soil.
- Plant the cactus in a shaded area that gets about 8 hours of good indirect light.
- Water the christmas cactus only when the soil becomes dry (see our christmas cactus watering guide).
- Fertilize the cactus once during growing season.
I much prefer to pot christmas cactus rather than planting them directly into the ground.
You see the great thing about cultivating christmas cactus in pots rather than in the ground, even in zones 9 – 11, is that you can move the plant as the seasons change to ensure it is always in shade and always getting the correct amount of indirect light.
You can use garden soil from zones 8 and above in the pot or simply use a store-bought succulent soil. I outline the best way to mix your own soil in our article about christmas cactus soil.
The only time you can keep your potted christmas cactus outside permanently
It is possible to keep your christmas cactus outside year-round?
You can only keep your christmas cactus outside all year-round if you live in USDA hardiness zones 9 – 11. For all other zones you must only keep your christmas cactus outside in the warm summer months as long as the temperatures do not fall below 50°F.
For most parts of the US keeping a christmas cactus outside permanently will mean the loss of your plant.
Due to rainfall and cold temperatures your christmas cactus leaves will be the first casualty and then the roots will die leading to the loss of the plant.
Taking christmas cactus houseplants outside – when you can & when you can’t
Now that you understand what it takes to grow and cultivate christmas cactus outside as a yard plant what about taking your indoor christmas cactus outdoors … is that possible?
Let’s take a look at where, when and how you can take a christmas cactus houseplant outdoors.
You can put your christmas cactus outside (sometimes)
So can you bring your precious christmas cactus indoor plant outside or must you confine it to the indoors all the time?
You can put christmas cactus outside during the warm summer months in most US states. As long as temperatures do not drop below 50°F or exceed 90°F the plant will be fine outside.
In USDA hardiness zones 9 – 11 christmas cactus can stay outside year-round if given the correct care.
Keep in mind that the christmas cactus plant is a tropical succulent that does not like excess watering and it is not cold-hardy. Heavy rainfall and cold temperatures will damage your plant and if the plant gets too much of either it will not survive the ordeal.
Having said that, many indoor christmas cacti will bloom better when they are given short periods outside – though be aware you can take additional steps to make a christmas cactus bloom both outside and indoors. If your plant has refused to bloom ever then read our guide to forcing it to bloom here.
The ideal time to bring your christmas cactus houseplant outside
So now that you know it’s possible to bring a christmas cactus outside you will want to know when you can do that.
In most US states you can put your christmas cactus outside in late spring and summer when the temperatures are higher. In USDA hardiness zones 9 – 11 you can keep the plant outside year-round. In zone 8 you can put it outside for most of the year but must bring it inside in the winter.
As you can see it is possible to put a christmas cactus outside as long as the weather is fair and temperatures are high.
Note that you must avoid leaving your plant outside when there is a lot of rain. This cactus requires very little watering and heavy rainfall will likely lead to root rot and the loss of your succulent.
For most plant owners, christmas cactus should never be outside in the winter
Can you keep your christmas cactus outside when winters sets in?
Christmas cactus can only be outside in winter in USDA hardiness zones 9 – 11. In every other zone it must be kept indoors during the winter to protect it from frost.
Christmas cactus is a tropical plant that grows naturally in the warm, humid areas of south-east Brazil and so it reacts poorly when kept in areas of low temperatures.
If christmas cactus is exposed to frost it will be unlikely to survive. Hence keeping your plant inside in the winter is essential.
When to bring in christmas cactus from outside
So now that you know when you can bring your christmas cactus houseplant outside you will want to know when you should return it to its indoor home.
Unless you live in hardiness zones 9 – 11 you should bring your christmas cactus inside at the end of summer. Christmas cactus is not cold-hardy and is fairly drought-resistant. Excessive rainfall and frost will kill the plant.
When the weather turns from warm to cool it is usually time to bring your christmas cactus into the safety of the indoors.
Both rainfall and cold weather will negatively affect your plant. Because most areas experience both dropping temperatures and increased rainfall as summer passes to autumn, and then into winter, it is best to bring in your plant at the end of summer.
Where christmas cactus grow best when outside
So where do christmas cactus grow best?
Christmas cactus grow best outside only in USDA hardiness zones 9 – 11. They grow grow best indoors in normal US households as the temperatures are ideal – just ensure the succulent has access to at least 8 hours of good indirect light per day.
Being a tropical succulent christmas cactus requires warm temperatures ranging from 65°F – 75°F. As the average US home is kept at a fairly consistent 70°F through the year an American home makes the prefect location for growing this cactus.
However, being tropical this species of cacti requires higher humidity levels of 60% and 70% humidity levels which are uncomfortable for human beings, so you must take steps to increase the humidity levels directly around your plant.
I covered easy ways to increase humidity levels for christmas cactus, and ways to ensure the plant gets the correct amount and type of light, in the article christmas cactus light requirements.